(Re)Starting Your Company #1 – Teach

Alexander the Great with his teacher Aristotle
Alexander the Great with his teacher Aristotle

Finding the right people to help you run your company is hard. Especially here in Calgary. Finding qualified and competent workers at all levels has been a challenge for years, with no end in sight, because of the boom economy.

Getting the right people is a strategic differentiator for your company. So instead of competing with everybody else, you might want to try something different.

Recruit your students. Don’t have any? Go out and teach or volunteer in your professional community. This is an extension of a previous suggestion for restarting your career – get out there and volunteer in the community.

One of my clients is a sales manager for a home-builder. In order to develop herself professionally, she volunteered to teach the local entry-level realtor’s certification. If you know anything about the Calgary real estate market, you’ll know that it was barely affected by the crash. Vacancy rates have been at less than 1% for a couple of years now. Lots of new agents are entering this hot market hoping to make their fortunes in sales.

But there are many other opportunities in this city. Even though the hiring pool is wide, sometimes it’s not  very deep. And no matter what the size of the candidate pool, we always wanting to be skimming off the top – to get the best available candidates for the money we’re paying.

Besides being a great way to stretch herself, authentically give back to the community, and enhance her personal and company’s reputation, she realized that she had a month-long opportunity to “interview” candidates for hours at a time in the evenings and weekends. The best ones – self-motivated, self-disciplined, smart, hard-working – are the ones she invited for a coffee chat.

By not making the excuse of too busy (she is a shareholder in the company and the mother of a young child), by developing herself and giving back to the industry, not only did she burnish her own and the company’s reputation, she also found a pipeline of likely candidates in a very tight market.

Want to restart the hiring pipeline for your company? Get yourself and your leaders out there.

Four “Must Read” Leadership Books.

Most leadership writing is not helpful, and worse some is harmful, un-actionable, drivel. I believe that the best way to learn about “Leadership” is to read the biographies of leaders.

Pick somebody you like, are interested in, or has had an impact on history, and learn about their life. I tend to prefer military leaders, but you can pick whom you like of course.

So what gives me the right to publish a “must read” Leadership Reading List? Well, not all management and leadership books are crap, and I believe that these are some of the best out there that I currently know of. If you think I’ve missed one then please let us know in the comments, or check out my list on Goodreads to see what other books are on my “must read” list.

  • The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software EngineeringThe Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering – Frederick P. Brooks Jr. – one of the first management books I read over 25 years ago. Recently reprinted, which in itself is a singular recommendation. While focused on software development, the ideas and principles apply to any cognitive work. First book to describe why adding more people to a late project makes it later, and other counter-intuitive project management truths.

Who Do You Network With?

There’s something you need to do. Get a thumb drive. Take it to work. Download your contact list from your work computer, or print it out, and take it home. I’ll wait.

You can’t network with the people on the contact list on your work computer, probably your most valuable “gotta find my next job” resource, when you’ve been escorted out the front door. It happens. It can happen to anybody. *holds up own hand*

Got it? Good. Do this every three months and keep your list up-to-date. This is the bare minimum you need to network. I’m not asking your to break of your company rules or the law, but you see the point.

Networking Is

Networking is the simple act of keeping in contact with people you can help, and that might be able to help you. When you do need to ask for something it won’t be awkward if you’ve stayed in contact. For many “technical” types this is a challenge. You may not feel comfortable reaching out to others for “no reason”, and it might be holding you back.

Here are some other places that you might consider, in your plan to build relationships in your industry:

Schools, Industry, Companies

If you’re still in school, or recently graduated, have you kept in contact with your class mates? The “good” schools like Carleton or Yale don’t necessarily have smarter professors or students than any other school. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But when their students graduate they have a built-in network and credibility. Your fellow students are good candidates for keeping in touch with over the years. Same industry, same interests, and likely a similar career path.

Go to dinner at your chosen profession’s association. This is a no-brainer. You’re not there for the rubber chicken or the dinner speaker. You’re there to meet others in your industry. For bonus points and to turbo-charge your connections: volunteer. It doesn’t matter if your volunteering effort is to hand out name-tags at the dinner reception desk, or to run the local annual association conference. Your name and your credibility goes up the more you give. Which makes it easier to find your next job (or next employee if you’re in recruiting mode).

Join a local Toastmasters. Even better if the club is industry, geographic, or interest specific. Again, bonus points for volunteering. This is also a good way to find connections if you’re planning to change careers or industries.

Check out your local Chamber of Commerce. If you’re looking for companies to work for, google “chamber of commerce” “your town”, and “your industry”. Then go to the open Chamber events and find the attendees that work for those companies. It’s a good way to target your next employer.

Question for the Comments:

How did you find your last job?

Other Articles You May Be Interested In:

The Joy of Networking
One Discovery, Two Decisions
Get the Job You Want By Talking to the Right People

Bernie works as a leadership and strategic business coach, consultant, and facilitator. He believes there are simple things outstanding leaders do well. He believes that not doing anything about bad leadership, once you know about it, is abuse. And poor business practice.

He believes organizations are founded on their values. He believes that the workplace is a place for both people and businesses to thrive. Not just survive.

Check out his other articles at practicalmanagers.com

Manage Your Performance Review

If you want to communicate well with your boss you have to plan for it. It’s not enough to do your job well, unfortunately. Especially if you’re the “shy” type and your boss isn’t. What does help is to make regular communication with your boss part of your routine – and I know us introverted types have a routine. It’s often part of our base behaviour.

I once had a friend at GD who would sit down once a year for an afternoon in a comfy chair. Glass of fine scotch in hand, pen & paper in the other he would spend a couple of hours by himself reviewing his accomplishments for the last year. He figured out what he wanted to do in the next year. He would consider his career, his volunteer and recreational activities, relationships, and how happy he was with his life.

The Power of Review

He gave himself his own performance review, planned what to do next, and then went and did it. I’m not sure where he is now, but I’m sure he’s still on the fast track, or doing what he loves, or both.

The Plan Do Review cycle is one of those simple ideas with a lot of applications. Fighter pilots call it OODA (Observe – Orient – Decide – Act). David Allen of GTD fame models it as Capture – Organize – Review – Do.

Here’s the simple idea:  Use “Plan – Do – Review” to show your boss you know what you’re doing. Make her job of reviewing your performance easier. Admit it, some bosses don’t prepare for performance appraisals very well anyway.

Sometimes the only way it will happen is if we can make it easier for them. Is this “right”? Probably not, but do you want to leave your hands in the hope that somebody else is going to do the right thing? Your promotions, raises, and career depend on your boss knowing (and remembering, and documenting) what you’ve done for the last year. Don’t depend on them to follow your best self-interest. It might not happen unless you make it happen.

Plan – Do – Review In Action

You can apply the Plan – Do – Review trope to your hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, etc. work. Try it, and with an honest effort you’ll find yourself looking for new contexts and situations you’ll want to apply it to.

If you’ve spent the last year creating a “brag” folder, listing your accomplishments, reviewing your own performance, and mitigating your own weaknesses, wouldn’t that make you look good on your appraisal anyway?

Get Better and Get Credit

I’ve borrowed much of this concept from “Rock Your Review” by Tanya Stevenson, a great book and a quick read from somebody’s who’s done what she describes, and done it very well. Here’s my take:

  • At the beginning of every work week, review your calendar, to-do list, and work assignments. Decide what the most important things you need to get done that week are, and plan how you’re going to get them done.
  • Do It

Use Review To Capture Too

  • At the end of the week, take some time to assess yourself against your plan. Did you do what you set out to do? What did you get done? What are you going to do about what was left un-done? What obstacles did you run into that you need help with? What suggestions would you like to make, and what did you learn? What do you plan to get done next week?
  • Write your accomplishments into a short e-mail to yourself, or capture it in some other way that’s appropriate to your work. At the end of the year you should have a nice fat folder brimming with 52 weeks of your accomplishments.

The question then becomes: what to do with this trove of productivity? You’ve captured what you want to communicate, how does the real communication happen?

Next Week

Telling your boss how great you are without feeling like an ass.

TED Talks You Should Watch

The Technology, Engineering, and Design conference videos you should watch, because, well, just watch them and you’ll understand. In this top ten list: the science of intrinsic motivation, a neuro-scientist who survived a stroke holding up an intact brain and spinal column, and statistics that actually inform.

What could be cooler? OK, maybe it’s just me.

What Life-Long Learning Looks Like

If successful business leaders and top executives are life-long learners, then what does that look like? Here’s how to read your way to the top.

Top 40 Leadership Blogs

If you’re a leadership geek, or you just want to source some good reading on leadership for your own self-improvement, check out:

The Top 40 Leadership Blogs